Is three stories on an upcoming opponent not named Duke or North Carolina overkill? A little, probably. But there's no reason not to do it with this amount of time, so here's the real preview on Maryland-Florida State.
It doesn't take much to sum up Florida State. Because I've already talked about them ad nauseam, that's what I'll do: They're very long and very good defensively - among the best in the country. Offensively, they aren't so great - they lack a true PG and consistent scoring threat without Toney Douglas, although Derwin Kitchen is growing into the first role and Michael Snaer might grow into the second. They turn the ball over way too many times - many resulting from Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton - and that completely disrupts any offensive flow.
If Florida State beats you, they probably do it on defense, not offense.
The ever so popular four factors chart is below:
Not overly encouraging. eFG% is about equal, and FSU has small advantages in FT% and Reb%, while Maryland has a sizable advantage in TO%. That's too close to call.
One place Florida State will have a huge advantage is height. The front line goes 7-1, 6-8, 6-9 (Solomon Alabi, Ryan Reid, and Chris Singleton). Alabi will be a real test for Jordan Williams, and Singleton causes huge matchup problems. He's very big and very athletic; so athletic, actually, that he can play the 3. That means a probable matchup would be 6-4 Sean Mosley.
Normally, I'd be terrified of that matchup. But Mosley is a great defender and plays bigger than he is. Singleton is the type of guy that you'd imagine would try to be hard but is really actually soft, and they don't come much harder than Mosley. Throw in the fact that Mosley is Maryland's best perimeter defender going up against a guy that turns the ball over three and half times a game and I'm not all that worried. The biggest problem for me with that comes on the other end, where I'm concerned about Mosley's ability to get a shot off while giving up that much length.
Teams that shoot well against Florida State win. The Seminoles simply can't keep up offensively. In their three marquee wins - or the wins that come closest to marquee status - none of the opponents broke 60 points. In their two losses, teams shot an average of 44% from the field. In their three big wins, opponents shot 36%. Score, and you're in.
That's easier said than done. This team is very, very good defensively, points won't come easily. There's a reason teams shoot bad against them. They don't give up a lot of open looks - capitalizing on the ones they do will be key.
A good way to get points is to manufacture them with defense. Singleton's a turnover machine; the more times he gives the ball away, the better, because they usually lead to easy points on the other end. Florida State has supposedly come a long way in breaking the press in recent games, but they haven't played anyone of note in three weeks, so that may not be accurate.
I'd be surprised if Maryland doesn't at least attempt to press them early on or at key points. Kitchen is big enough to see over a lot of traps, but not Greivis Vasquez and Sean Mosley. He's not slow, but he's not quick, so breaking the press there is questionable, and he's not really a true PG. It's entirely possible that they have improved at breaking it, and if they have I wouldn't stick with it, but it's worth a shot. Turnovers from the press almost always result in easy layups, and Maryland will need those.
Another encouraging note offensively for FSU is a relative lack of a premier offensive threat. Check out the chart below, and you'll notice that the points impact is just about equal, all the way down the line:
That should indicate two things: 1) a balanced roster, and 2) a lack of a go-to guy, for which a balanced roster is a euphemism. They don't have anyone who has a proven ability to take over a game, and that can hurt. If it's close, do they have a guy they want taking the final shot? TC didn't seem sure, and maybe they don't. With a team struggling offensively, one of those would be good to have.
They do, however, have an emerging outside threat in Deividas Dulkys (pronounced David--Us Duel-Kiss, strangely), a Lithuanian with a sweet stroke. He's not fully arrived as a killer shooter, but he's getting there. Maryland has trouble containing three point shooters, so he could be a legitimate offensive option tomorrow. Heck, he could be probably be the only offensive option tomorrow if he gets hot. Keep him under wraps and get turnovers, and Maryland will be fine. Keeping him under wraps will be the hard part - either he'll have to be cold tomorrow or Maryland's perimeter defense will need to improve.
Ultimately, it may come down to how well Greivis Vasquez can do against a strong defense and if Maryland gets a secondary or tertiary option offensively - it would be a battle of strengths. Or, it may come down to Florida State's offense; if Maryland struggles scoring, can FSU get up enough points to win? Can they break the press or go without turning it over 15 times?
This game is truly a toss-up. Statistically, both teams have a 50% chance of winning, according to KenPom. At the moment, the prediction is a one-point Maryland victory, which basically means the formula has no idea. And when the formula has no idea...well, at least it'll be fun.
My prediction: Maryland in a close one, thanks in part to a home crowd that fuels a late run caused by turnovers off the press, 67-63.